He has assiduously tried to escape the long, prominent shadow of Bob Dylan, yet the older he gets, the more Jakob Dylan looks and sounds like his father.
Thursday night, he joined his reunited band, the Wallflowers, on stage at the Midland, drawing a modest-size crowd (well under 1,000). For 90 minutes he entertained them with songs from all over his and his band’s catalog, especially “Glad It’s Over,” the latest Wallflowers album, its first in seven years. The band went on an extended hiatus in 2007; in January, it started recording “Over,” which was released in October. If the time away from the band invigorated Dylan in the slightest, he didn’t show it much on stage
The current version of the band includes long-time members Rami Jaffe, who excelled on piano, Hammond B3 and accordion, bassist Greg Richling and guitarist Stuart Mathis plus former Pearly Jam/Red Hot Chili Pepper drummer Jack Irons. They issued an appealing vibe, whether playing something warm and acoustic, like their early hit “One Headlight,” for which Jaffe hauled out the accordion, or something electric, grimy and bluesy, like “Devil’s Waltz” a track from the new album and the show’s opening number.
They would perform eight of its 11 tracks, including the two co-written with former Mick Jones of the Clash: the jaunty “Reboot the Mission” and “Misfits and Lovers,” a straightforward, well-crafted rock song. (Coincidentally, Irons played in the Latino Rockabilly War, led by the late Joe Strummer.) Like much of the band’s previous material, the songs on “Over” bear plenty of engaging traits, either a sweet melody or a catchy groove. Lyrically, they tend to be smart and evocative. From “Love is a Country,” a wistful rock ballad: “In the desert that borders between me and you / Where more than a few good men have failed to come back or get through.”
The audience this night was as laid back as the band on stage. Calling a show “pleasant” may be damning it with faint praise, but there’s nothing more flattering to say about this one. Dylan, who wore a brimmed-hat (much like his father on the cover of “Desire), straddled the line between cool and aloof. He had little to say to the crowd and when he did it wasn’t always audible to everyone in the room. Jaffe was the most animated person on stage, and his contributions musically, especially on the B3, were the most conspicuous.
The crowd gave each song a warm response but some more than others, especially the hits or best-known early tunes: “Three Marlenas,” “6th Avenue Heartache,” “One Headlight” and the cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.”
They would end with another cover, of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” a curious choice considering they left some of their better material off the list. There’s no doubt many fans were drawn to this band because of Dylan’s progeny. He has managed to craft a career of his own and a sound of his own, one that hasn’t catered to those fans, although these days, especially vocally, he’s giving them a little something to hang their own hats on.
Setlist: The Devil’s Waltz; It’s a Dream; Three Marlenas; Sleepwalker; First One in the Car; Reboot the Mission; 6th Avenue Heartache; Misfits and Lovers; Hospital for Sinners; Closer to You; Witness; Heroes; Love is a Country; One Set of Wings; One Headlight; The Difference. Encore: Babybird; Shy of the Moon; (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.